A general strike, mass protests, riots - the Greek prime minister is pressing on with his austerity program despite massive resistance at home. He still intends to save another 11.5 billion euros ($14.9 billion).
The Greek police estimated the number of demonstrators in the Greek capital, Athens, to be around 50,000 while organizers spoke of hundreds of thousands.
The protests were mainly peaceful - but there were clashes in front of parliament on Wednesday - around 200 masked demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and paving stones at the police, who retaliated with tear gas and stun grenades.
More than a hundred young people were temporarily held by police. For the first time, security forces also deployed water cannon in front of the parliament, though they remained unused, since the police managed to bring the situation under control.
What could not be brought under control were the verbal attacks that came with the strikes - such as a statement by Nikos Fotopoulos, union leader at the public energy company DEI, who is campaigning against the part-privatization of the company. "There is only one way to stop this puppet government - not just to react, but to resist," he said. "When the bulldozers roll towards you, they can only be stopped with rockets, not flowers."
Kalashnikovs against austerity?
MPJannis Michelogiannakis also poured oil on the fire. The young politician from Crete, who represents the Democratic Left party, praised his leader Fotis Kouvelis for opposing austerity, and warned of armed attacks should further measures be introduced.
"Kouvelis deserves the credit for applying pressure [against the austerity policies]," he said. "Because, if this continues, people will take to the streets, and not just with slogans - next time with Kalashnikovs," the parliamentarian said, leaving open the question of who would be attacking who.
Michelogiannakis is well-known in the parliament for making provocative statements, but it is still unheard of for a democratically-elected representative to warn of an armed resistance.
In the meantime, the tug-of-war over the budget cuts of at least 11.5 billion euros ($14.9 billion) continues. The conservative head of government Antonis Samaras has decided on his austerity program, but only intends to inform his coalition partners of the details on Thursday (27.09.2012).
The most controversial issues remain pension cuts, redundancies within public service, and the raising of the retirement age to 67. Samaras wants to present the budget program to parliament next week, and will be expecting a frontal assault from the opposition.
On Wednesday morning, the representatives of the orthodox communist party demonstratively walked out on the parliamentary session to join the demonstrators on the streets. They were followed by the populist right-wing splinter party the Independent Greeks.
Alexis Tsipras, head of the radical leftist Coalition of Left Movements, only joined the debate later to call for resistance against the austerity measures.
"Our society is now having its say," said Tsipras. He said Greek people would no longer accept the destructive policies that have been forced on them for the past two and a half years. Greece, he said, should not be turned into a social desert. "The government must take that on board," warned Tsipras.
For the first time, a Greek general strike is taking place without Jannis Panagopoulos, chairman of the biggest Greek union GSEE. He is currently in Madrid trying to forge a European alliance of trade unions. His aim is for all the crisis-ridden countries in southern Europe to coordinate joint protests against what he sees as a ruthless savings policy imposed on them by Brussels.